Friday, June 27, 2008

'Fit, Not Frail: Exercise as a Tonic for Aging'

Keep going to that gym. Story here.

Miriam E. Nelson, director of the John Hancock Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Tufts University in Boston and lead author of the new recommendations, observed last fall in The Journal on Active Aging that “with every increasing decade of age, people become less and less active.”

“But,” Dr. Nelson said, “the evidence shows that with every increasing decade, exercise becomes more important in terms of quality of life, independence and having a full life. So as of now, Americans are not on the right path.” . . .

Contrary to what many active adults seem to believe, physical fitness does not end with aerobics. Strength training has long been advocated by the National Institute on Aging, and the heart association has finally recognized the added value of muscle strength to reduce stress on joints, bones and soft tissues; enhance stability and reduce the risk of falls; and increase the ability to meet the demands of daily life, like rising from a chair, climbing stairs and opening jars. . . .

The new recommendations add flexibility and balance to the mix. Improving balance and reducing the risk of falls is critical as you age — if you fall, break your hip and die of pneumonia, aerobic capacity will not save you. Ten minutes a day stretching legs, arms, shoulders, hips and trunk can help assure continued mobility, and daily exercises like standing on one foot and then the other, walking heel to toe or practicing tai chi can improve balance.

The recommendations, issued last August, are geared to healthy adults 18 to 64, with a companion set for those 65 and older or those 50 to 64 who have chronic health problems or physical limitations. Details can be found at Under “Influence,” click on Physical Activity Guidelines From ACSM and AHA.

The experts who made these recommendations urge all adults to adopt them now. As C. Jessie Jones, co-director of the Center for Successful Aging at California State University, Fullerton, said, “People can’t wait until they’re in residential or long-term care to get started.”

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